Companies often treat peripheral devices like laser printer cartridges as commodities to be purchased at the lowest price, often by the same person that orders the corporate pencils.HP Canada is sounding a warning bell, however, saying that there’s a lot of technology in those cartridges and you get what you pay for.

On a recent media tour of its Dublin Inkjet Manufacturing Operation in Dublin, Ireland, HP business managers made the case why, while the cost of refilled and remanufactured (reman) printer cartridges may make them appear attractive, it’s very much a case of buyer beware.

“You really don’t get what you’re expecting to get when you’re buying a reman,” said Gary Drysdale, vice-president, sales and marketing, HP Supplies, in the imaging and printing group at HP Canada. “There is a lot of misinformation out there about the remans. A lot of the people (marketing them) are giving out information that is just wrong.”

While he said that, up front, a remanufactured cartridge can be as much as 10 to 40 per cent cheaper than an original HP cartridge, in the long run a variety of factors make the total cost of ownership much higher, negating any cost advantage and even costing more that the HP product.

Mike Oreskovic, category business manager, LaserJet print cartridges with HP Canada, said there is a lot of technology in HP’s LaserJet cartridges.

In fact, he said 70 per cent of the imaging system resides within the cartridge; it’s not just an ink container. He noted that, of HP’s over 25,000 patents, some 4,000 relate to its supplies business.

HP designs its inks to work specifically in conjunction with its cartridges and its printers, so Oreskovic said using a remanufactured cartridge can mean a downgrade in print quality, more reprints, and potential damage to your printer, leading to increased service calls.

“Within corporate IT environments, the people buying ink cartridges are often the same people buying staples. It’s not the IT department,” said Oreskovic. “There’s a lot of education we have to do around the quality and the IT involved.”

Bradley Hughes, a research analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto, said he sees a number of disadvantages with using remanufactured cartridges. The top one, said Hughes, would be the warranty issues they could raise, with companies potentially left on their own if something goes wrong with a remanufactured cartridge.

While it’s a balancing act, remanufactured cartridges can be a good option for companies, said Michelle Warren, senior IT analyst with Partner Research Corp. in Toronto.

On the plus side there’s lower cost, the convenience, and easy disposal if the company takes old cartridges back. On the downside, said Warren, there are potentially expensive warranty issues and a variable cost per page, since customers don’t always know how much ink or toner they’ll get from a reman cartridge.

Drysdale said HP’s goal is not to attack the reman market. Instead, HP wants to make enterprise buyers aware of the issues around remanufactured cartridges so they can make an informed buying decision.

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